When conflicts arise between trustees and beneficiaries, they can become irreconcilable. These contentious disputes often culminate trust contests, which are complicated legal procedures. An invaluable phase of these procedures by trust litigation law is called ‘Discovery,’ which equips you and your attorney with the ammunition you need for your case. Here is our guide to what this phase entails:
What is Discovery in Trust Litigation Law?
When a trust conflict turns into a trust contest, preparing for trial and navigating trust litigation law is a complex process, and the timeframe can vary significantly.
One of the first stages of a trust dispute is a formal discovery. Discovery is a procedure wherein both sides discover relevant facts to prepare for trial. Regardless of whether you’re suing a trustee or being sued, this is an essential step with which to familiarize yourself.
A trustee must maintain transparency and disclose certain information to most beneficiaries. When trustees and beneficiaries are at odds because of these duties, it results in a conflict between beneficiaries and trustees, who can then become embroiled in litigation.
When these conflicts occur, most beneficiaries can also petition the court for an order of discovery before pursuing litigation to acquire information and determine if litigation is necessary. Discovery involves obtaining information about the trust and its assets to:
- Ensure all interested parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities
- Ensure the trustee is administering the trust properly
- Understand the claims and defenses during litigation
This phase of litigation is complicated, and ensuring you collect the necessary information to assist your case requires an expert trust dispute lawyer.
Types of Discovery in Trust Litigation Law
The discovery process during trust litigation is complicated and time-consuming, and there are different forms of discovery. Usually, both sides exchange documents and information.
In the end, these different forms of discovery serve the same purpose: to acquire information needed to protect your interests as a beneficiary. The two most common types of discovery are either written or oral and include:
- Interrogatories: Written questions the other party must provide written answers for under oath to be used at trial.
- Requests for Production of Documents: Written requests for documents.
- Requests for Admission: Written requests to the other party to admit a statement is true to focus on the central issues of the dispute, which they may use at trial.
- Subpoenas: Written court orders requiring one side or a third party to testify or produce evidence for inspection, like medical, bank, or business records.
- Depositions: Oral, in-person interviews under oath that a court reporter writes down and turns into a transcript.
Because beneficiaries typically bear the burden of proof, they often make the bulk of the discovery requests. Ultimately, understanding what evidence to collect, how to collect it, and how to devise a strategy requires a premier trust litigation attorney.
What is Excluded from Discovery in Trust Litigation Law?
While the discovery phase of trust litigation law can yield significant courtroom advantages, it is imperative to understand its limitations.
Essentially, there are things that parties cannot acquire because the courts regard them as ‘privileged information.’ This information includes:
- Attorney-client communication
- The attorney’s work product in preparing their case
- Trial preparation materials (witness lists, exhibits, etc.)
- Irrelevant information to the case
Get Unrivaled Representation During a Trust Contest
If you have found yourself embroiled in a trust dispute, navigating trust litigation law is complicated without the guidance of an unequaled trust dispute lawyer. Throughout this process, only an attorney can adequately prepare you for trial, handle negotiations, devise a strategy, and represent you.